People tell me all the time I have great skin, which takes me by surprise because for years I was convinced I had ruddy skin. But after years as a beauty editor, I've learned how to turn my reddened, sometimes ashy skin into skin that people comment on. Here are my skincare secrets.
Get Skin in Tip-Top Shape
The No. 1 rule I've learned as a beauty editor is the healthier your skin, the less makeup you'll require. If you cleanse, exfoliate and hydrate skin, you'll notice over time you don't need much concealer and very little foundation.
Here are some of my best resources:
Always Slather on Primer or Moisturizer Before Foundation
If you apply a primer to your face first, your concealer and foundation will glide on smoothly instead of settling into your fine lines or wrinkles. Moisturizer works, too, just not as well. The trick is to apply foundation within a minute of the primer or moisturizer application — you don't want it to soak into the skin completely.
Apply Concealer BEFORE Foundation
Once you apply concealer, you won't need as much foundation, according to makeup artist Bobbi Brown. Use concealer under eyes, along the nose and on the chin.
When you do apply concealer, pay special attention to the red areas around the nose. Dot concealer on these areas and then step back and look at how much brighter your face is.
Avoid Full Foundation Coverage
Few people need to apply foundation all over the face — a look I lovingly call "cake face" (read more about cake face). Apply where you have uneven skin tone (usually along your nose). In wintertime, if your cheeks tend to get ruddy, apply there as well. For more sheer, natural coverage, consider a tinted moisturizer, which goes on much lighter than typical foundations.
See my list of the best foundations and tinted moisturizers.
Blend Foundation Correctly
If you do want more coverage, use a foundation brush (more on this below) and always start in the center of your face, blending outward. Pay special attention to the neck, otherwise, people will see the line where you stopped, giving you a "mask face." (Full disclosure: I went around with mask face my entire sophomore year of high school).
Pick the Proper Color and Formula for Your Skin Type
Choose a color that's as close to your natural skin tone as possible. Never try to darken your complexion with foundation, it will look very obvious (use a bronzer for a sun-kissed look). But do consider two shades of foundation: One for summer when skin is naturally darker, and one for winter when skin is lighter. Mix them in the in-between months.
For oily skin, go for a matte foundation. Dry skin? Try a hydrating formula. One last tip: It's a myth to test foundation colors on the back of your hand. The best spot is actually along your jawline, according to Allure's Linda Wells, in her book, Confessions of a Beauty Editor.
See How to Pick the Right Foundation for more tips.
Use a Sponge, a Brush or Your Fingers
There's really no right or wrong way to apply foundation. It's just by preference.
Here are 3 options:
- A foundation brush. Some makeup artists prefer foundation brushes to apply foundation (I loved Trish McEvoy's foundation brush — until I lost it). A brush allows you to get into all the nooks, crannies and pores on your face. To do this, put a glob of foundation or tinted moisturizer on the back of your hand and dab with a foundation brush, then apply to face.
- Your fingers. Other makeup artists believe using your fingers warms up the foundation, which helps it melt into your skin better.
- A sponge. I use a sponge when applying tinted moisturizer or foundation. I find the coverage is smooth and goes on perfect and I don't muck up my fingers. See The Best Foam Sponge for Applying Foundation for more information.
Any of the 3 methods above work fine. It's up to you which you prefer.
Don't Throw Out Wrong-Toned Foundations and Concealers
Finding the right color foundation and concealer can be daunting, which is why I suggest you get professional help at Sephora or a makeup counter at a department store. This way you can try before you buy. But if you do have a few foundations and concealers that are just a bit off, do like the makeup artists and blend a couple of mismatched colors for the perfect one.
How to Conceal Dark Under-Eye Circles
According to makeup artist Anthea King in InStyle magazine, you want to neutralize dark under-eye circles with peach- or yellow-tone concealers. Dab concealer on the inner corner of the eye by tapping it into place (never run a concealer on like you would sunscreen or foundation).
Invest in Great Highlighters and Watch Your Skin "Glow From Within"
My very best skin secret of the moment is illuminating creams and products. I love the way highlighters can minimize your worst features while enhancing others. There's simply no better way to appear as if your skin is glowing from within than with a luminizing cream.
Apply above your brows on the browbone, on tops of the cheeks and down the center of the nose for best results. A makeup artist's favorite (and mine, too) is Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat concealer. Makeup artist Jo Strettel swears by this in Elle Magazine because it's easy to use: You simply paint it on the face. I swear by it as well and use it every week and have for years.
Don't Be Afraid of Bronzers
Nothing warms the face more than a bronzer. Make sure to use a big makeup brush (again, putting in my plug for MAC brushes) and a light touch. Apply to all the spots where the sun hits: Forehead, cheeks, and nose. For more "pop," blend a creamy blush on top.
See my list of the best bronzers.
Avoid "Cake Face"
Oily face? Make sure to blot oil before powdering or your skin will look cakey. Try a powder-free blotting sheet.
Don't miss How to Avoid "Cake Face."
Set Makeup With a Primer
Primers are a relatively new "must-have" trend in the beauty world. They act like spackle: They moisturize, plump the skin and fill in any fine lines, pores, and wrinkles so your foundation won't settle into them.
At first, I was skeptical, but then a makeup artist talked me into the beauty editor's All-Time Favorite foundation primer from Laura Mercier. Cha-ching! The primer is oil-free, which means it contains no oils, a bonus for my oily skin. I bought it and use it daily underneath my tinted moisturizer.
See my list of the best foundation primers.
Natural Oils Are Not Bad
Speaking of oily skin, I'm no fan of the cakey, too-powdered look. Don't be afraid of your skin's natural oils. I prefer my face to have some sheen, which I think looks more "dewy" — plus, keep in mind oily skin tends to develop fewer lines than dry skin.
If you have oily skin, apply an oil-free primer before your foundation to keep makeup in place, then powder only the nose and chin. Keep a pack of blotting tissues in your purse to blot excessive oils.
Evian Spray Is a God-Send
After you apply makeup, spray Evian water spray on your face to get the perfect dewy non-cake face. Get Evian spray at any drugstore. You can also apply a pea-sized dot of moisturizer on a sponge and lightly apply to forehead and cheeks.
Get Rid of the "Ashen" Look
If you have dark skin, you may notice your skin can get ashy. Combat it with a cream highlighter. Apply concealer to upper corners of lips where skin tends to be darker.
Tone Down Ruddy Skin
If you have ruddy (red) skin, tone it down with a yellow- or green-based foundation. Pink-based foundations and tinted moisturizers will only worsen your red complexion. Also, try yellow-based blushes, such as apricot, instead of a pink tone.
See my list of the best foundations.
Create Instant Cheekbones
Add contour and depth to cheekbones by applying a bronzing powder over cheeks, forehead, and nose (where the sun naturally hits), then applying a cream blush on cheeks over this. Instead of applying blush into the apples of your cheeks, dot the cream along your cheekbone, then blend in well.
Get the full scoop in How to Contour Using Makeup.
Darken Your Ultra-White Skin
Does your skin get super white? Add color and shimmer to it with Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse.
Yes, Everyone Can Wear Blush
I have ruddy skin and thought I never needed blush. The makeup artist at Bobbi Brown agreed until she applied a tinted moisturizer first. The moisturizer toned down my ruddiness enough that she NEEDED to add a blush which subsequently gave me a healthy flush.
See How to Apply Blush.